Well, between the election and storms of all sorts, it’s been a little difficult to concentrate, hasn’t it?
My focus is returning and I would like to turn my focus to a book for new readers. Books for new readers have a specific structure to help the new reader successfully negotiate the story. (Some of the characteristics are: The font is larger than normal; the illustrations tend to directly reflect the text; the sentences are shorter; the words are either commonly known or easily sounded out; sentences are never interrupted by a page turn.)
Kevin Henkes is completely in tune with the young readers who flock to his books. His vast talents range from illustrating nearly wordless books to writing novels for older children. Heck, his Olive’s Ocean even won him a Newbery Honor!
Penny and her Song came out earlier this year and readers were happy to see the mice again. Is it a picture book, which is essentially a visual experience?
Well, it is possible to read the pictures without the words. Henkes’s subtle eye and body movements allow the reader to know when Penny is sad or happy or simply pleased to be with her gentle parents and siblings. The music notes let the reader know that Penny is a girl with a tune to share. Every action referred to in the text is depicted in the illustrations and Penny’s personality is clear to the reader. White space helps the reader along and there is never any confusion about which words are next.
It’s a sweet story with art that we have come to expect from the very talented Henkes. Is it too simple? The committee will not be able to compare this to others works by Henkes, but, given what they already know of his earlier works, will this seem distinctive and distinguished? Or will the Geisel committee be a better group to discuss this one?